Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Battle of Franklin / The Landscape Shapes the Battle

Marker ID:  
Location: 1368 Eastern Flank Cir, Franklin, TN
County: Williamson
Coordinates: N 35° 54.343    W 086° 51.529
  35.90571666    -86.85881666
Waymark: None


Battle of Franklin
The Landscape Shapes the Battle

During the Civil War, topography played a major role in shaping events. The Battle of Franklin was a prime example.

When Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood’s 20,000 men charged across these fields, the steep hills to their left and the angling Harpeth River on their right created an ever-narrowing path of advance. At first, Hood’s Army of Tennessee was stretched for more than two miles west to east. But as the men charged, the landscape compressed them to a width of less than a mile, forcing many regiments into an overlapping, tangled mess just as they hit the well-entrenched Federal defenses.

Making matters worse, the Confederates had to march across two miles of open ground, moving slightly uphill the entire way, over an area that provided virtually no natural cover. As one Union officer observed: “Very few battlefields of the war were so free from obstruction to the view”—and to the fire of Federal cannons.

Ironically, the battle itself took place largely because of the Harpeth River. Union commander Gen. John M. Schofield did not want to fight here but planned instead to reach the safety of fortifications in Nashville. With no usable bridges in place at the time of his arrival, however, Schofield ordered his troops to prepare for a possible attack. Fortunately for his men, the Harpeth curved around them like a horseshoe, giving the Federals the advantage of interior lines with the flowing river guarding their flanks.

Erected Tennessee Civil War Trails.

[This marker may also be found on HMDB.org]